November 11, 2012 Upper Peninsula Cougar, photo courtesy Michigan DNR

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday that three recent trail camera photos of cougars in the Upper Peninsula have been verified by the DNR:

Two of the photos, both of a cougar with a radio collar, were taken in October in Menominee County – one near Cedar River and one near Menominee just north of the Wisconsin border. The third photo was taken in northern Marquette County in November. The cougar in the Marquette County photo is not wearing a radio collar.

The DNR does not place radio collars on cougars; North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states where wildlife researchers have placed radio collars on cougars to track their movement. The DNR has not yet been able to determine the origin of the radio-collared cougar that is in Michigan.

…DNR Wildlife Division staff have now verified the presence of cougars in the Upper Peninsula 20 times since 2008.

To date, the DNR has confirmed 11 photos, eight separate sets of tracks, and one trail camera video from 10 Upper Peninsula counties: Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Houghton, Keweenaw, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft.

“The increasing number and frequency of verified cougar sightings in recent years are likely due to three factors in particular: The growing popularity of trail cameras used to monitor wildlife activity in the woods 24 hours a day; additional transient cougars moving east from established populations in western states as they seek new territory; and the cooperation of the public in reporting cougar sightings and sharing their photos with us for official review, which we greatly appreciate,” said Adam Bump, one of four DNR biologists specially trained to investigate cougar reports.

The DNR adds that cougars may travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory – as far as Connecticut from South Dakota.

You can report cougar tracks and other evidence should be made to a local DNR office or by submitting the sighting on the DNR’s online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.

More on the Michigan cougar saga on Michigan in Pictures.

Marquette County Cougar, photo by Michigan Wildlife Conservancy

A trail cam in southern Marquette County operated by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) recently captured the above photo of a cougar. Dr. Patrick Rusz, Director of Wildlife Programs for the MWC and retired DNR forester Michael Zuidema verified the trail camera’s location on a well-worn wildlife trail atop a wooded ridge. The camera has also photographed wolves, coyotes, fishers and numerous other species at the same site over a four year period.

The MWC is publicizing this photograph because it may be the best, clearest photograph of a wild Michigan cougar ever taken. It is also unusually interesting because Mr. Zuidema has recorded over twenty credible cougar sightings in the same vicinity since the 1970s. These include several sightings within a few miles of the trail camera location.

Dr. Rusz stated that “the long history of sighting reports in the area indicates the cougar photographed on June 1 may be part of a resident population rather than a wandering cat from a western state.” Dr. Rusz has studied cougars for the Conservancy for 14 years and is co-author of a peer-reviewed study that confirmed cougars in both peninsulas of Michigan by analyses of DNA in droppings. He has also identified a long list of additional physical evidence dating back to 1966, and notes that Michigan State College zoologist Richard Manville documented several cougar sightings or incidents when he inventoried the fauna of Marquette County’s Huron Mountains from 1939 to 1942.

“The MDNR cougar team should now look at the very good evidence of a remnant cougar population collected before 2008,” said Bill Taylor, President of the Conservancy. “They could still easily verify cougar photos taken in the 1990’s in Alcona and Oscoda Counties in the Lower Peninsula and some others. The vegetation and other landmarks needed to confirm the photos are still there.”

You can compare the photograph above with photos of a wolf, coyote, raccoon, and porcupine taken by the same camera in the same location at the MWC website at www.miwildlife.org.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy. They have restored more than 8,200 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, and helped with several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.

More about cougars in Michigan on Michigan in Pictures and weigh in with your comments below or on the Absolute Michigan Facebook!


Menominee County Cougar, June 2010, photo courtesy Michigan DNRE

The Michigan Natural Resources and Environment reports that a trail camera photo from Menominee County on May 26th is likely a cougar:

“This is the first confirmed cougar picture in Menominee County. We appreciate the cooperation of the caller who shared the photograph and contacted the DNRE,” said DNRE wildlife biologist Kristie Sitar, who is a member of the DNRE’s cougar team. “Other landowners who believe they have evidence of a cougar on their property, such as tracks or a kill site, are encouraged to contact their local DNRE field office as soon as possible, which allows staff to investigate before the evidence is compromised. Without good evidence, such as verifiable photographs or tracks, confirmation becomes increasingly difficult.”

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, originally were native to Michigan but were thought to have been extirpated around the turn of the last century. The last known wild cougar taken in Michigan was killed near Newberry in 1906. The Menominee County photograph represents the latest in a series of track and photo verifications of cougars in the Upper Peninsula. Since March 2008, five sets of tracks and two trail camera pictures have been verified in Delta, Chippewa, Marquette, Schoolcraft and now Menominee counties. The origin of the animal or animals is unknown. There have been no confirmations of breeding activity of cougars in Michigan in recent years.

If you sight a cougar or find evidence, call your local DNRE office or the 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800. Click through to the story for more, including tips on human/cougar encounters.

While the DNR is only prepared to admit cougars in the UP, SavetheCougar.org has reports from all over Michigan and there’s lots more at michigancougar.com.

Leelanau County Cougar photos

Leelanau County Cougar photos, photo by Dr. Jerome Wiater.

These photos were taken by Dr. Jerome Wiater and appear courtesy the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy.

Check these out bigger, read the report from the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and read more at Michigan Cougar Confirmation? Leelanau photos seem to say “Yes” on Leelanau.com.

You can read more about the Michigan cougar controversy at Absolute Michigan and read all about cougars (puma concolor) from the UM Animal Diversity Web.

Female Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle, photo by MTU_Flickr.

Regular readers may recall TurtleGate ’08. Some of you may have even been consumed by worry that this terrapin tangle would go unresolved. Fear not, for thanks to a happy find while researching the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, I can finally put the michpics universe back on firm & factual footing.

MTU Flickr says that this little lady was looking for a good place to lay some eggs in the Seney Wildlife Refuge during sunset. It’s part of their excellent Nature Made set, a collection of photos “mostly set in the Upper Peninsula” that should probably be viewed as a slideshow.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and probably (other than the elusive cougar), the Michigan animal you most want to be wary of. From the U of M Animal Diversity Web’s page on the common snapping turtle:

Snapping turtles are not social creatures. Social interactions are limited to aggressive interactions between individuals, usually males. Many individuals can be found within a small range; snapping turtle density is normally related to the amount of available food. Snapping turtles can be very vicious when removed from the water, but they become docile when placed back into the water. Snapping turtles sometimes bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying behavior is used as a means of ambushing prey.

Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles kill other turtles by decapitation. This behavior might be territoriality towards other turtles or a very inefficient feeding behavior.

You can read much more about these agressive amphibians from the link above and also the Michigan DNR and Wikipedia. Also check out this video of a common snapper attacking a camera to get an idea of how fast they can move if they want to!

You may want to go back and read the other post too as it now has information about the wood turtle in Michigan.

Bobcat in Michigan

December 12, 2007

Bobcat

Bobcat, photo by pnygirl1.

Sometimes when I’m not sure what Michigan in Pictures will be about, I look at my Michigan events calendar for inspiration. There were no events, but the calendar also shows hunting information. I saw that on Monday, Bobcat Trapping Season opened in northern Michigan. That jarred me enough to go looking for stuff about bobcats in Michigan.

In this closer view of the cat, BJ says that she photographed this bobcat the Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids, that he was taken in from Tennessee as an injured animal and that his name is BOB.

The very excellent University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web has information & photos about bobcat (Lynx rufus). You can find a lot more in the Wikipedia entry for Bobcat, which says that these cats are phenomenal climbers that are crepuscular (most active at twilight and dawn) and found all over North America. As to their size:

The adult male Bobcat is 28 to 47 inches long, averaging 36 inches; this includes a stubby 4 to 7 inch (10–18 cm) tail, which has a “bobbed” appearance and gives the species its name. An adult stands about 14 or 15 inches (36–38 cm) at the shoulders. Adult males usually range from 16 to 30 pounds (7–14 kg); females average about 20 pounds (9 kg). The Bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a bobbing gait. At birth it weighs 0.6 to 0.75 pounds (280–340 g) and is about 10 inches (25 cm) in length. By its first year it will reach about 10 pounds (4.5 kg)

Don Harrison has several photos of a bobcat by the side of the road and also old postcards of a bobcat crossing the Military Rd near Stateline, MI and a bobcat at Lake Baldwin. Here’s a video of a bobcat crossing a bridge that gives you an idea of how these animals move.

Finally, any of you who were hoping for bobcat trapping are out of luck as the season is (permanently?) closed south of the bridge according to the DNR’s bobcat trapping page. Here’s the link to report bobcat, cougar and lynx to the Michigan DNR.

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